A common phrase passed around the running community (or any sports/fitness community for that matter) is “hitting the wall”. Specifically a mental wall. That moment when you just cannot get your body to go any further or push any harder. This is when people give up. This is the barrier between reaching your goal and quitting too soon. Especially for long distance running, the mental wall is strong and steady. I have a few tricks up my sleeve to break through and get past that barrier, and then when it pops up time after time, how to keep breaking it down, at least where running is concerned.
- Recognize that your legs are not giving out, your head is giving up
It’s truly crazy what your mind can do, but the first step is knowing that your mind is used as a muscle just as much as your core and your legs. Your mind can bring you much farther than you ever thought possible. Did you know if you can run 5 miles you are physically fit enough to run a half marathon? Your mental strength brings you the rest of the way.
- Physically, your body can do more than you realize
Once you have recognized how powerful your mind is, push it. When you think you are absolutely done, do one more rep, one more lap, one more mile. You will come to recognize that your limits aren’t as cut and dry as you originally thought. Your body can physically do one more. It can. It’s 100% possible, your mind just needs to tell it to.
- Find the wall and be its friend
As you are training and pushing your limits, figure where your wall is and start chipping away at it. Get comfortable pushing up to that point, and then work to push through it. Once you find the point where your mind gets weak, exercise that weakness. Just like any other muscle, your mind needs to get trained too.
- Push the weakness in training
Once you find the weakness, consistency is key. Keep pushing down your wall until it breaks. Your body and mind both need to be strong enough to keep going when you are tired and feel like giving up. Every time you get tired do one more before you’re done. Just one more. How bad can that be? If you keep pushing past those barriers in training, pushing past them on race day will be a no brainer. You got this!
- Crush it, then do it again
Once you break down one wall you are going to find another one. Don’t let this discourage you! Finding new walls means you are making progress. Running isn’t going to get super easy all of a sudden and you won’t run three miles one day and a marathon the next. You are going to have to break down all of those mental setbacks to reach your goal. You want to know the best part about pushing past your wall? Now you can do something that was previously impossible, and that is pretty amazing.